The minerals industry’s contribution to Australian innovation depends upon high-value, high-wage jobs in a diversity of professions, including engineers, environmental scientists, geologists, geophysicists, mathematicians and financial officers.

Technological innovation will continue to change the nature of work in mining and therefore skills requirements. For example, increasing automation of mining and logistics is moving workers from mine sites to remote operational centres.

Mining operations will also be more data-driven, requiring programming and analytical skills.

The mining sector’s adoption of new technology and continued pursuit of innovation will improve productivity, safety and efficiency.

The MCA is looking closely at the composition of the future minerals workforce and skills requirement in growth areas such as automation, robotics, artificial intelligence and data analytics.

The MCA has invested over $50 million into minerals higher education since 2000, and in partnership with universities across the country has developed a world-class minerals education sector that is delivering the skills needed in the industry today.

However, the sector must also provide future graduates with the skills the minerals industry will need in the decades to come.

The Australian Government should continue to address the structural weaknesses within the minerals higher education sector through reforms that ensure strong safeguards to secure the viability of traditionally low student enrolment and high cost to universities (including minerals-related disciplines) to ensure that Australians have access to meaningful education opportunities to participate in the future minerals workforce.

Additionally, workplace relations reforms that modernise workplaces and embrace innovation and changing work practices as a result of technology are vital to the competitiveness of the Australian mining industry.

Australian mining and mining supply companies are also working to raise awareness of their industries amongst young Australians and build the workforce of the future.

Despite mining and METS providing jobs for 1.1 million Australians – or one in every 10 jobs – and great future prospects for the industry, it’s clear that much more needs to be done to make young people aware about the opportunities and rewards in mining and METS.

The mining industry has a great story to tell – our high-skill, high-wage workforce is younger, better-paid, better trained and has a much higher share of apprentices than other sectors, with average full-time weekly pay of $2,610, 67 per cent higher than the all-industries average.

The industry needs to tell its story better to make young people and their parents aware of the tremendous opportunities on offer, including world-leading innovation.

The MCA convened a Minerals Education Summit in Melbourne in 2018 to bring together leaders from industry, academia and government as well as students and graduates to consider the future minerals workforce and discuss changes to skills and education required to deliver new skilled professionals to the Australian mining and mining services industry.

The MCA is currently working with other industry bodies to develop a Workforce Strategy, as well as conducting further research with young people into how to create incentives to get them interested in careers in the mining and METS sector.